I've been having an ongoing discussion/debate for some time now with some friends about the scope and extent of God's sovereignty - and its interaction with man's "free will." My reformed friends know both the discussion and the heart ache of hearing the same objections over and over about the clear teaching of the Word. It's a topic I want to discuss further sometime.
But sometimes the discussion isn't just academic. Sometimes, we get a glimpse of real life... and the theoretical becomes very, very personal.
It's that way for me this evening.
A word of history first... when I was the father of very young children, I used to say that the three words I feared most were "some assembly required." When our third child - our daughter - was born, I said the feared three word phrase became "Dad, meet Thor." (BTW, I now have a friend named Thor and he's a nice guy, so I don't think that joke works anymore).
But when my kids were 6, 4, 2 and 11 months, I found the real three words that I feared: "He has cancer." Two of them did. (Check my lone August 2006 post for more detail at http://nopearlsb4swine.blogspot.com/2006/08/family-video.html). Leukemia struck two of my boys in two weeks. Our lives were shaken to the core... and EVERYTHING was up for grabs.
OF COURE GOD IS IN CONTROL OVER EVERYTHING THAT EVER HAPPENS! And I had to ask myself then this question: Is God really in control - of all of the details of my life? And my kids? Does He really control all things? Do all things really work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose?
I have friends who would tell me "No, God is not in charge... we are. Our actions, etc. influence or even dictate God's actions. God's answer is always "yes and amen" - and we choose "no" for an answer, even when God longs for us not to do so. Sickness, poverty, etc. can be defeated and health and prosperity - while not an end to themselves - are all certainly within our grasp if we do and think the right way.
But sometimes, they are not. And I know it can be expected "...because the Bible tells me so."
So when faced with a life crisis, these dear people think that God is NOT, as a practical matter, in control of the problem that they face. Perhaps God is just emphethic, they might say... interested in the outcome, but so "repectful of our freedom" that He limits His sovereign control and hasn't determined the outcome. I believe I understand (and don't agree with) their exegetical argument, but what I really don't understand is why they believe the thought that God's lack of control would be in any way comforting - as if God's plans could somehow "be thwarted" now by the circumstances of life and our choices. (see Job 42:2).
But the truth is still THE TRUTH, whether or not people agree: God is IN CONTROL. The Bible is extremely clear on this point, and I'm consistently amazed at the twisting of the plain meaning of the Bible.
The Bible's answer to the greatest difficulty of my life was great comfort to me then, and now. I experienced God's peace in a way I never would have dreamed possible, resting in the fact - the truth - that God knows all things... is in control of all things... and that NOTHING happens that is outside of his perfect will and plan.
I'm thinking about this tonight because we have dear friends who's son was diagnosed with leukemia earlier this week. It brings back all of the feelings - and all of the same questions I had when my kids were sick. And I'm grateful that the answers are still the same.
My wife and I sat quietly together tonight alone in our house. We ache for our friends, we remember our grief and pain and wish somehow we could take those feelings away from them and protect them. Most of all, we remember the burning, almost irrational wish to take the cancer on ourselves... anything to spare our children.
I hated that time. And, because of the work of a sovereign God, I learned to love Him more through that horrible time as well.
On the "theology" question, you see that I'm not posting a defense of the Biblical doctrines of God's Sovereignty and His Omniscience... I'm not even really open for the "debate." And tonight, I'm not interested in establishing the point... I'm resting in it.
I just feel sorry for people whose lives are not anchored by the TRUTH of God's Hand moving in ALL things, including those things we don't like at the time. Even Job rightly considered himself in God's hands and under His control in the midst of the worst of his trials - and chose well by continuing to trust the Lord beyond his own ability to understand - even when being totally honest emotionally about his life circumstance:
"Though he slay me, I will hope in him, yet I will argue my ways to His face." (Job 13:15)
Paul, when discussing this whole question of God's sovereign control of life, comes to this conclusion:
"Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and how inscrutable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to Him that he might be repayed? For from Him and through Him and to Him are ALL THINGS. To Him be glory forever. Amen." (Romans 11:33-36,
There is so much there to talk about... and perhaps we will over time. But for me tonight, I'm resting in the sovereignty of God. I'm resting in the promise that ALL things work together for good - not just the ones I understand.
And I'm praying for that same rest for my friends as well. And for their dear son, Matthew. If I can presume just a little further, will you pray for them all when you read this as well?